Deputy PM: Muftis being given right to carry out marriages ‘not a violation of secularism’

A draft law granting muftis and civil servants of the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) the right to register and perform marriages is not a violation of secularism, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ has said, denying claims that marriages will be held at mosques.

“Muftis will register marriages in the same way and based on the same conditions as mayors or marriage officials who are currently authorized to perform marriage procedures. Anyway, muftis are already civil servants. This regulation change has nothing to do with any violation of secularism,” Bozdağ told reporters in the capital Ankara on Aug. 7.

A debate was sparked after a government-drafted bill allowing muftis to perform marriages was revealed last week, with the opposition saying the move violated the secularism principle of the Turkish constitution.

Bozdağ said the law would give couples the option of getting married either at marriage offices or at the offices of muftis without changing marriage procedures.

“Some argue that marriages will be performed at mosques. But there is a valid procedure that has an open clause forbidding marriages at religious sites. These processes will be open and transparent,” he added.

Single-type uniforms

Also top of Turkey’s agenda is the government’s plan to introduce a single-type uniform for suspects appearing at court over alleged links to the failed July 2016 coup attempt.

“There is no uncertainty in terms of the uniform’s color but I think there is a need for a legal regulation in terms of its scope. The ministry is working on it and they will share their studies with the government. Probably the regulation will be put out as one of the decree laws issued in the coming period,” Bozdağ said.

Bozdağ, who recently served as justice minister, recalled that there were some concerns that single-type uniforms would break the equality principle of the justice system and could therefore spark fresh problems for the ongoing trials.

‘Kılıçdaroğlu bombed Turkish tourism’

Meanwhile, in strongly worded criticism of Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, Bozdağ accused the main opposition leader of “bombing the Turkish economy and tourism,” referring to Kılıçdaroğlu’s interview with the German magazine Focus.

Kılıçdaroğlu has denied the printed version of his interview in which he is quoted as saying it is “no longer safe” for Germans to visit Turkey, accusing the editors of misrepresenting his comments.

“When I read this interview I asked myself whether this was a German political leader talking about Turkey. Can a Turkish politician asking for votes from the Turkish people make a statement to damage the Turkish economy and to stop tourists coming to Turkey?” Bozdağ said.

“I want to ask Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu: Whose side are you on? Turkey, or Germany, or the German government? What do you think about the position of the German government regarding the [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK and [the Fethullah Terrorist Organization] FETÖ?”

‘Kılıçdaroğlu will run for president in 2019’

Upon questions about the 2019 presidential elections, Bozdağ claimed that the CHP leader was planning to run for president against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“When you listen to his statements, he is always saying ‘I.’ Kılıçdaroğlu is being promoted as a figure separate from the CHP,” he said, claiming that the purpose of this strategy is to “attract votes from people who would never vote for the CHP.”

Bozdağ suggested that the massive rally Kılıçdaroğlu held in Istanbul last month following the 25-day “justice march” from Ankara to Istanbul was in fact the launch of his candidacy.

“He delivered messages to conservatives as well. ‘I will be the protector of all of you,’ he said. It was not a justice march, but a march for his presidential candidacy,” the deputy prime minister said.

‘No new state’

Meanwhile, Bozdağ also reiterated the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) condemnation of a statement of a party member who suggested that Erdoğan will build a new state to replace the existing one.

“The Republic of Turkey is the last representation of the thousand-year-old state tradition of the Turkish people. It is the last state founded by the Turkish people,” he said.

The recent controversial statement from a former AKP central executive board member stating that the government is “founding a new state” cannot be attributed to the AKP and its management, Bozdağ claimed, adding that the government’s “job is to protect our state and to strengthen it.”

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